Here is the first snippet for Valor’s Stand:
Chapter 1: I’m Not Sure I Believe What I’m Seeing
“Shift geometry!” I shouted as the enemy dreadnought opened fire.
It had fired at us with both its primary and secondary batteries and we had about three seconds warning. It had fired antimatter projectors, which were bad enough. Antimatter projectors fired a beam of antiprotons at high speed. When those hit the particles at the edge of a warp field, they caused massive detonations as matter and antimatter collided. The heavy disruptors, though, they were aimed pulses of the same exotic matter that made up a warp drive. A direct hit from one of those could destabilize a warp field or even punch through to strike the hull of a ship. As Alexander Karmazin shifted the variable geometry of the Alexandria’s drive field, I threw our ship in a corkscrew spin to try and avoid the inbound fire.
Shifting our drive geometry to a wider one slowed our overall relative velocity, though, so I wasn’t able to get as much separation from where the enemy ship’s weapons fire went as I’d wanted. Our drive field caught several glancing hits from the antimatter projectors and at least one direct hit from the heavy disruptor cannons.
For a ship the size of a destroyer, that should have been the end of us. The glancing hits from the antimatter projectors were in the fifty megaton range. The heavy disruptor cannon should have collapsed their field and probably would have shattered the ship itself.
Instead, the field shuddered, slightly. My eyes widened as I saw that, but I didn’t have time to really think about it. I whipped the ship back around, sweeping in even as the dreadnought’s commander swept it up, trying to keep us at range.
“We’re in range,” I snapped to Sashi Drien.
“Engaging,” she called back.
She opened up with the Alexandria’s main battery. We’d already volleyed our warp missiles at the dreadnought’s escorts earlier in the battle. Unlike the dreadnought, we couldn’t mount full batteries in turrets. We had a single primary weapon system, a pulse laser on a phased array, to give us a broader field of fire. The pulse laser had an extremely short optimal range at only thirty thousand kilometers. At that range, the beam only took a tenth of a second to cross that distance.
“Direct hit!” Sashi whooped.
“Enemy firing!” I called, shifting us to evasive even as Alexander shifted our drive to compensate. We had far less time to react at this range and this time the enemy fire was far more accurate. The Alexandria shuddered under multiple impacts to the warp field and this time several of the disruptor beams penetrated. It didn’t go down, though, and while alarms wailed, the Alexandria held together.
“Damage to aft drive ring,” Kyle Regan reported from engineering. Drive is at twenty percent power. Major instability to the warp field, variable geometry is offline until we can bleed off power.”
I filed that away, even as I brought the ship around for Sashi to engage. “Firing!” she called out.
We’d dropped the range to under twenty thousand kilometers. Firing at that range, the Alexandria closed the distance in six hundredths of a second. At that range, the flash as the pulse laser struck the dreadnought’s warp field dead on, combined with the explosive failure of the drive, followed immediately by the dreadnought’s antimatter reactors overloading and detonating was painfully bright. For just a moment, the system had a second star as over five hundred megatons of energy released in a single instant.
“Target destroyed,” Sashi noted, with unmistakable satisfaction.
I was of a bit more mixed feelings as I terminated the simulation and sat back. The four of us sat in the basement room of my grandmother’s big, stone house. It shouldn’t have surprised me that she had rooms dedicated to running simulations in a secure environment, but it still had as she’d told me that she had some combat simulations she wanted me and my friends to go through. Captain Arthur Weisfeldt had delivered those sims, and Sashi Drien and I had installed them and the additional monitoring equipment that he’d wanted.
“Did we just kill a dreadnought with a destroyer?” I asked, still feeling disconnected and a bit in shock. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Sure, a squadron or two of destroyers was at least somewhat believable, but a single ship?
“Well,” Sashi gloated, “technically, I killed the dreadnought. You guys just piloted things and kept the ship running.”
Alexander Karmazin gave her a level look, but my friend’s smug expression didn’t change. “We’re going to need to check the settings,” he noted. “I think us surviving that fire at such close proximity is a bit skewed in our favor.”
Before he could finish speaking, Ashiri Takenata came through the door, “That was unbelievable.”
“Sorry?” I asked. Ashiri had been running the sim for us, less as the opposition and more as general oversight for the exercise itself.
“You guys seriously need to see this data. I mean, it’s hocking nuts,” Ashiri went on quickly. “Like, I was running some analysis as the scenario ran, but it’s breaking all the tactical algorithms.”
My boyfriend, Kyle Regan, spoke up, “What the computers don’t know how to engage a super-destroyer?”
“Super-destroyer?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Well,” he smiled at me, “It’s bigger than a destroyer, smaller than a cruiser. There’s dreadnoughts and superdreadnoughts, why not a super-destroyer?” Any arguments I might have had for him sort of evaporated with that smile. It was so sincere, so earnest that my heart just sort of melted.
“Because it sounds sort of absurd?” Sashi scoffed. “I mean, there’s plenty of other ships classes that we could use. Frigate, for instance–”
“It’s currently in use, typically for ships smaller than a destroyer but larger than a corvette,” Alexander Karmazin’s protested. Leave it to him to argue a point, even with his girlfriend.
Sashi apparently didn’t like that, she leveled a glare on him. “Frigates used to mean fast, powerfully armed ships capable of engaging other warships up to ship of the line size–”
“Which hasn’t been in use since ships were made of wood,” Kyle stepped up next to Alexander. The two of them were opposites in looks, Kyle was pale, freckled, and his bright red hair stood out, cut just inside miltary regulations, his green eyes twinkled merrily as he tweaked Sashi.
Alexander Karmazin, on the other hand, was tan, dark haired, and had gray eyes. He looked brooding solemn most of the time and even though we’d just done what should have been impossible, this time was no exception. “Super-destroyer may not exactly flow off the tongue, but it is sort of applicable. The Alexandria is larger than a normal destroyer and much better armed…”
“And sounds like something a kid who watched too many mecha cartoons would use,” Sashi scoffed. “Next thing you two will be suggesting we fire super-turbo-lasers and death-blossom arrays.”
“Hey!” Ashiri protested, “I used to watch those shows.”
Sashi just rolled her eyes. “Anyway,” she went on, “there’s no way we’re calling it a super-destroyer.”
I felt the need to speak up, mostly because I didn’t want this devolving into a days-long argument about terminolgy ranging from the historical to the fantastic and beyond. “It’s the Alexandria-class, it has no official designation of ship-type. How about we leave it at that, huh?” I didn’t really see why it mattered. It was roughly the size of a destroyer, that was good enough for me.
Kyle smirked, “All the more reason we should nail that down before this all goes mainstream and we’re stuck calling them something absurd… like frigates.”
Sashi’s face darkened and she started to snap something, but then her eyes went to the door and she snapped to attention, “Attention on deck!”
All of us snapped to attention as the recently promoted Captain Weisfeldt and the Admiral came into the simulator room. The Admiral merely arched an eyebrow at us and nodded, “Carry on.”
We relaxed, but no one really felt like continuing the argument in her presence. “Captain Weisfeldt assures me that you’re producing useful data on the performance the vessel, though I think we need to dial in a bit more realistic levels of difficulty as well as ship performance.”
I understood what that meant right off. She was going to make sure our future scenarios were harder. Not that I blamed her. We were supposed to train under difficult circumstances.
“To that end, we’ll do some updates to the simulation software. I’d also like each of you to do a writeup of your perspectives on implications on current scenario design and ship capabilities. But any additional comments you have for Captain Weisfeldt now would help him as well.”
“Yes, ma’am,” We answered.
The Admiral gestured at me to follow her as she stepped out of the room. As I started to do so, Sashi spoke to Captain Weisfeldt, “Sir, I think that one area of the frigate’s performance that we should look into is the transition time for the warp geometry.”
Kyle and Alexander shot one another looks and I caught that, pausing before I stepped out. Apparently Sashi was going to try to slip in her naming convention. I should have known they wouldn’t let it go.
“Sorry, frigate?” Captain Weisfeldt asked. “I don’t think the Alexandria-class matches the parameters of a frigate. If anything it’s some kind of destroyer variant, possibly requiring a new terminology, perhaps something like a super-destroyer…”
I had to hide a smile as I ducked out of the room. Apparently Kyle and Alexander had allies in that particular fight.
The Admiral led the way down the hall. We were in the basement of her big stone house, so it was surprisingly cool in the hallway. “Honestly, I’m not sure I believe what we did, ma’am,” I said to her quietly as we walked towards her “secure” office down the hall.
“That’s part of why we’re going to tweak the software. Everything matches up to the design capabilities, but those capabilities may prove… optimistic. So we’re going to dial things down a bit,” The Admiral answered dryly. We stepped into her secondary office, this one was remarkably bare, with just a desk and secure terminal, a couple of chairs, and several secure file cabinets. “Besides, I’m reasonably certain if I tell the Charter Council that a group of cadets in a single ship took out a dreadnought and it’s escorts in our trial scenarios, they’d assume I’d tweaked the results. If we give them something more along the lines of what they’d expect, they’re more likely to approve the further expenses of more Alexandrai-class vessels.” She took a seat behind the terminal and gestured at the other chair.
“More of them, ma’am?” I asked in surprise, taking my seat.
“Several more, at least. Possibly upgrades to our newer vessels, anything we can manage,” The Admiral’s eyes were intent. “Unless you’re forgetting Crown Prince Abrasax of Drakkus?”
I shook my head in response to that. There was no way that I could I forget the attempted massacre at the southern city of Nashik, which he’d bribed Charter Counselor Beckman to orchestrate… all in order for his fleet to have a legal excuse to invade Century. “It’s just, Commander– that is, Captain Weisfeldt– mentioned how expensive some of the individual components for the one ship were…”
“Oh, I assure you, Jiden,” The Admiral quirked a smile, “these ships are far, far more expensive than you might even guess. But any expense is far less than losing our planet. It’s a rather barren, hot, dusty place, Century, but it seems so very many people have wanted to take it over the years. We’ve had to fight so many battles defending it.” Her voice took on an odd, sad note as she said that and I wondered if she was thinking of my grandfather, her husband, who’d died defending Century long before I was born.
She shook her head, her gaze focusing on me, “But yes, these ships will be expensive, which is why we’re trying to get solid and realistic numbers on what they can accomplish.”
I pursed my lips as I considered her answer. “You don’t think our previous strategy, lots of cheaper ships, is going to safeguard us?”
“It’s not enough, not anymore,” The Admiral shook her head. “That was an assumption of making us just a hard enough target that no one would want to pay the cost to take our planet. But the Dalite Confederacy tried, using a ploy to pull our better ships out of position and to pin our older ships in place, on the ground where they couldn’t range. And now,” she shrugged, “now Drakkus tried a sneak attack, which would have worked but for you hacking their private network and telling me when and where to expect them.”
I shivered at that. In part, it was a response to the huge fleet that had arrived in orbit over my homeworld. They’d emerged from strategic warp so close to the planet that they’d been visible to the naked eye: almost a hundred ships in total. If not for the Admiral having a huge portion of our reserve forces activated on extremely short notice, then we would have had almost nothing in position to stop them.
Of course, the other part of that shiver was for what I’d found in that network, what I’d found running that network. It had been a copy of my gestalt, an intelligence based upon my mind, but stored in the network, selected by the late Doctor Aisling and used by Charterer Beckman.
I still didn’t know why they’d used a digital copy of me for that task. Maybe it had amused Aisling or maybe Charterer Beckman had wanted a way to tie things back to the Admiral if things had gone wrong for her. My digital copy had been my opposite in many ways, though. She hadn’t cared all that much about defending Century, about saving me or my friends. She’d only cared about her own survival and I’d had to make a bargain with her before she’d helped me: in return for me keeping quiet about her, she’d given me information that had helped me to stop Charterer Beckman’s plan.
I couldn’t tell the Admiral that second part, of course, and I kept wondering just how much damage the rogue copy of me was going to do, out there in the planetary network. I just really hoped it wouldn’t turn out to have been a bad bargain. But I still didn’t feel it was right to betray her trust.
“Have we…” I trailed off, not really knowing if I’d like the answer. I straightened, meeting the Admiral’s gaze, “have we learned anything more about my brother?”
Charter Beckman’s contact with Crown Prince Abrasax had been a pirate by the name of Wessek. From what we’d learned, Wessek had been ordered to attack my home, at Black Mesa Outpost. His goal there had been to either kill or kidnap the Admiral, me, and my entire family. He’d killed my parents for fighting back and kidnapped my little brother.
“We’re expecting our consulate from Drakkus to evacuate, the new President sent orders to that effect, anyway,” the Admiral said. “When they do, and when some of our agents on Drakkus get the opportunity to report in, hopefully we’ll get more news on Will.” I knew she wasn’t telling me everything, but I couldn’t blame her. The world of intelligence gathering was murky. I hadn’t gone into that track and in reality, I didn’t want to be involved in that kind of thing. My life was hard enough as it was, I liked to face my problems head on.
“Well,” the Admiral went on. “I’ll have some further information for you soon, but there’s one last thing I wanted to tell you, here and now, before you hear it through official channels.”
My eyebrows went up that that. The Admiral hadn’t even told me when she was stepping down from overseeing the Academy. Somehow I had a bad feeling that any news big enough for her to tell me in person had the chance of overturning my entire world.
“I’ve been appointed commander of our mercenary detachment, the Centurions, by President Kenyon,” my grandmother told me. “As a result, within the next few days, I’ll need to wrap up any projects I’m working on here and depart. The Centurions are stationed at Hanet, so I’ll be leaving Century for the next year, at the least.”
I stared at her in shock, trying to fight the raw emotions I felt surging through me at those words. She was leaving. The Admiral can’t leave, we need her here, I need her here…
“In my absence, there are plenty of capable officers who can defend our homeworld, Jiden,” the Admiral told me. She stared at me for a long moment, “and though you haven’t graduated yet, I count you among that number.”
I straightened in my chair, feeling as if my heart was going to explode out of my chest. All my confusion, all my fears were banished by her words. She trusted me to help defend Century in her absence. She really trusts me.
Somehow, that thought made everything seem better.